Friday, 11 June 2010

Selfish, confused or honest?

According to this article,Canon Mark Hocknull has spoken out criticising the “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian” or the “I’m spiritual but not religious” attitude prevalent in today’s society. He suggested that this showed a selfishness and the depth of public disdain for Christianity.
I was discussing with a friend recently the problem that Christianity faces when confronted with a pluralistic and post modern society in which each and every view is valid and to assert a monopoly on truth can be seen as a heresy in its own right. If we truly believe that, “no man comes to the Father” except through Christ, then does this mean that we deny the evident good – and I would say the presence of God – in other faiths? Do we happily agree with those who tell us that they are Christians but don’t go to church? Do we accept people who see themselves as spiritual rather than religious? What about those who no longer believe in the devil or the virgin birth – or even the divinity of Christ and are there any limits?

You may have already guessed that I am pretty post modern – the title of this blog is Significant Truths (plural) not truth ( singular) – but I do think the way we respond to a post modern society is something we increasingly struggle with. Many Christians and Churches do not want to be too prescriptive or controlling, it is important to accept people at the stage they are at in their journey and to recognise people will bring different levels of understanding or approach, at the same time it is important to retain the distinctive nature of what makes us Christian and some common boundaries.

I suppose one of the problems with the sentence above is that ideas about “the distinctive nature” of Christianity may differ so much that finding common ground can be difficult, and that is often just among ourselves, let alone when reaching those from a secular background with very vague ideas about the Christian faith. To some people you are not really a Christian, for example, if you do not believe the bible is inerrant (that rules me out) or perhaps if you do not believe in a personal devil. This approach brings security, but it can be stifling and exclude. I would really hesitate to judge whether anyone else was a “real” Christian (that’s the kind of fuzzy liberal I am folks) but I would not personally feel that I was a Christian if I did not believe Jesus was the Son of God and died and rose again. I do see this pretty basic tenet of the Christian faith and am quite happy to defend that view as entirely reasonable!

So can you be a Christian and not go to Church? Is it better to be “spiritual” than religious? Is God bothered about your rigorous and carefully worked out Christian beliefs, or more that you love God and your neighbour? Is a Christian just someone who says that that is what they are?

And for a bit of light relief – let’s hope Canon Hocknull’s frustrations don’t lead him to this...


  1. Hi-lar-ious! (the video, I mean.) And I do think anyone is a Christian who puts his or her hope in Christ, however falteringly. I mean, we do pray for those whose faith is known only to God, don't we? But I do agree that I would be hard pressed to think myself a Christian if I did not believe in the Incarnation and Resurrection. For me the creeds do provide the basic outline, but I understand that everyone can't get there all at once.

  2. Thanks for the comment ( your first, I think?)and for joining.

    I like your definition of a Christian, you don't sound too wayward by my way of thinking (that could say more about me than anything!)

  3. That video seriously cracked me up! :)

    I think you and Not-So-Wayward do a good job of encapsulating the current situation for modern Christian, well, those of us who dare to think for ourselves anyway! It's been on my mind a lot lately, with my exploration of Anglicanism as a new spiritual home. As someone who counts an ardent atheist as one of her closest friends, and who is widely accepted as the most religious of all of the others, I have a fairly open-minded idea about other beliefs. I guess I am on the "liberal" side of things in Christianity(well I'm gay and don't think I'm evil, so I guess that automatically makes me liberal doesn't it? :P). For me the essential things are the Incarnation, Divinity of Jesus (as well as humanity of course), the Trinity and the Resurrection. There are obviously many other aspects of the faith I find important, but like you I feel that's what makes me a Christian, and I will defend it till the cows come home! Unless politely asked to stop, of course. :D We cannot judge the faith of others, because only God knows what's in their hearts. I don't feel that means we can't defend our own positions in a respectful manner though.

  4. Hi Cleo, it's lovely to hear from you again.

    Yes, I think I see things pretty much as you do both in terms of my own "theology" and the bit about not judging others.
    Isn't it nice when we all agree -see, that's what we Anglicans are like ;)!!!

    What made you rethink Catholicism again? ( I think you wrote a blog post, so I will go check it out need to unburden here!

    I have an ardent atheist as a son. I may do a post on atheists soon. John Richardson has just done a piece asking why atheists have kids ( I know you're a big fan of his blog!) My answer is because they are human beings too and that's the way God made them:)

  5. To me the Earth is the church.

  6. I shall run that one past the vicar tomorrow, Jimmy and watch him go, "Hhhhhmmmmm"!:)

  7. No I still haven't blogged about it yet, as it's sort of an ongoing process. Maybe I'll be adventurous and do a series or something! I think a simple, partial explanation is given in a bit of advice a local C of I rector gave me: "Try and separate your catholicism from your Roman Catholicism and see what you get."

    ...What I got seems pretty Anglican! :)